Commonwealth Games

Photo by Rob jones
Moving into the Village
After two good training sessions in Ontario after nationals, Max and I were off to the airport to connect with Emily and Raphael for our flight to Glasgow Wednesday night.  (Max and I stayed to check out the mtb athlete accommodations for the Pan Am Games next summer and enjoy the local riding).

At the airport we were escorted to the front with special commonwealth athlete status. Bonus! Quickly, we were settled into the 6hr flight to Glasgow where we were greeted by Games staff at the airport, again streamlined through customs, accreditation and were met by our bags on the other side.  You could really get used to that level of service!

With time to grab a coffee we were on a bus with athletes from track and field and headed to the village where Ian Hughes from Cycling Canada was there to meet us after security.  Getting into a games village is very similar to going through airport security.

Ian gave us a tour of the village showing us critical things like where we could get the best coffee, get laundry done, make our own fruit smoothies and of course our home for the week.  Emily and I moved into the top floor of a house we shared with the Canadian track team.
Lochness in the vilalge
Over the week we had the chance to see them racing live and I think I finally understand how all the different events work!  Luckily with 2 days before our race the track events finished…spectating was getting a little too exciting and we needed to focus on some more chill time.
On this side, the Canadian Commonwealth team staff travels with physios and massage therapists, norma tech boots and ice tubs so we can get in all the recovery we need around training.  We have an athlete’s lounge where we can go to hang out and unwind, cafes and meal halls to connect with friends.  It’s a pretty sweet 24 hr/day set up.

1 day after arrival the team road out to the venue together for some laps.  The course was fast with lots of little rocky features that wound us through Cathkin Braes Park 7 km from the village on a hill overlooking Glasgow.  As a team we were able to test out all the lines and really get the course dialed.  That time training with the team really helped. By race day I had 10 laps in on the course and was feeling confident and ready to go.
Even though the depth of competition would not be the same as at a World cup, the top ladies were on form and my nerves were much higher as we approached the race.  Games events become so medal focused that you have to keep reminding yourself that it is not wanting a gold medal that makes you go fast, it is being prepared, calm, confident and riding well.  Our team environment was perfect for this.  The village was very relaxed.  We didn’t talk about the race more than we needed to, we treated it like just another bike race…and yet darn those nerves still creep in there when you know a medal is possible!

The race
Tuesday we awoke to overcast and blustery skies.  I was anticipating a 4-way battle with Emily, Annie Last and Rebecca Henderson for several laps before any separation would occur to determine the top 3.  We lined up, the gun went off and all the favorites seemed to have fallen behind.  Rather than dictating the start it was being dictated for me, but I stayed calm feeling the race really wasn’t going to separate until the first climb and I had time to get to the front…but I better make it happen.

The race went smoothly sitting in about 6-10th until that first climb and then I made a move to go around and try to claim the front.  I got there before the climb started switch-backing and found only Rebecca Henderson was still with me.  The climb was less than 3 minutes long, but by the time I reached the top and the ABC line descent I was alone and knew it was my opportunity to create some more daylight.  Training with Emily we had realized the least risky C line was also the fastest so I set to work on gaining seconds wherever I could.
Overcast and Blustery on race day but the Scotts were out in force
The crowds were brilliant.  On the grassy sections where they were clapping politely I felt like I were in a golf tournament and at other times a really well attended noisy mtb race!  Friends and family were out there cheering us on as well as other Canadian athletes with a break in their racing and training schedule.  It was really special and as I worked my way around the course trying to secure a healthy time gap in case one of the plenty of jagged rocks lining trails such as Broken Biscuits and Timorous beastie decided to give me any trouble, I was able to see the big screen tv’s and see Emily riding strongly in the silver medal position.  Go team!

With 3 of 6 laps done and a healthy lead I was able to minimize risks and back off in the rough sections.  But man is it stressful when you feel a race is yours to lose!  My Maxxis Crossmark tires were trustworthy though and guided me to the finish where our team coach Ian had the Canadian flag ready for me to carry across the line. 

It took until we were walking out to the podium and I saw our flag ready to be raised for it to really sink in how incredible a day it had been.  Seeing two Canadian flags rising side by side was icing on the cake and having a fan in the crowd start singing our anthem made the moment even more special.

Thanks to everyone who came out to cheer us on, who was at home yelling at their tv’s and sending us great energy.  It is always a pleasure to race for you.

So now until Sunday!  Time to learn a new course and settle into Mont Sainte Anne!